Last night, Friday, February 12, Milwaukee Ballet held the premiere of Artistic Director Michael Pink’s first completely original piece, “Dorian Gray.” The performance met with unanimous praise from the audience, ending each act in roars of applause and the evening in a standing ovation.
“Dorian Gray” is Michael Pink and Milwaukee Ballet’s first completely original piece, giving the audience an exclusive look at ballet history in the making. The story is based on Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Dorian is a man seduced by vanity and eternal youth. He follows the reckless, conniving Lord Henry down a dangerous path and the way to “new hedonism” leads to ruin and tragedy.
A running theme throughout “Dorian Gray” is the depiction of multiple perspectives. The story itself is about a man who sacrifices everything for the sake of eternal beauty and pleasure, and yet the progression and altered perspectives of certain scenes cue the audience into the side of Dorian’s life he refuses to see. In such an introspective piece, perspectives are flipped and turned in a way that dazzles audiences and gives them something new and exciting.
There’s a lot within “Dorian Gray” that makes it unique, but most prominently is the use of narration. Guest Artist James Zager plays Lord Henry, who speaks throughout the performance, both to the audience and to the characters within the ballet. It’s very jarring at first and takes some time to get used to, but, eventually, the use of a vocal actor works to turn Lord Henry into the devil on Dorian’s shoulder. While one might normally only expect the character to hear what tempts them in a world where everyone speaks, it makes sense that the audience hear Dorian’s inner temptations through Lord Henry in an otherwise mute world.
The dancing speaks volumes, however. Milwaukee Ballet is comprised of truly magnificent, talented performers who are just as much actors as they are dancers. The expressiveness found in each and every one of the performers is chilling, particularly in Patrick Howell as Dorian. He begins the evening as the cool, calm, and collected image of perfection and goes down a dangerous path that’s visibly noticeable as his movements progress from become strained to writhing in torment.
The choreography is remarkable and gives the audience a kind of sampler platter in ballet. The audience is treated to many different variations in the art and they truly get a bit of everything. Pink’s creative genius is easily seen as he so accurately depicts very real moments in relationships using only music and movement.
“Dorian Gray” is an extremely creative work and is unlike anything you’ve seen before. It’s visually stunning as the characters sweep from scene to scene, encompassed in unique lighting patterns that create an ethereal feeling to the scene. The sets, lighting, costumes, music, and choreography all work together to create a timeless, extraordinary world that so easily draws audiences in.
“Dorian Gray” is running at The Pabst Theater now through February 21. Tickets are available online or by calling 414-902-2103.